North Smithfield’s Alan Wardyga stepped boldly into his retirement wanting only one thing – to help people.
This former financial advisor and business owner of 25 years, admittedly bored after selling his half of his business to his partner, decided to bring together two things he loved – music and charity.
“How can I take the music that I play and use that as a tool to help anybody who’s going through a bad situation?” he said. “So, I took the two, and I put them together, and came up with the phrase ‘Music Fights Cancer.’”
With no experience in fundraising, no Facebook account, and only a tenuous grip on social media, he created his own company, Turning Point Productions, with a nonprofit offshoot called Music Fights Cancer, and began promoting a major musical production from home.
That production, also dubbed Music Fights Cancer, will be held at the Park Theatre in Cranston on Saturday, Oct. 19. The event coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and proceeds will benefit the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
Music is close to Wardyga’s heart. He was an active musician in the late ’70s, playing keys in a local band called Family Tree, which included local radio legend Gary DeGraide and his family. He frequently attends concerts and supports the local music scene, where he met and approached the bands about performing at the Oct. 19 benefit.
Those performers will include Danny Klein’s Full House, celebrating the music of the J. Geils Band; Merchants of Cool, a Foreigner tribute band; and the Big! Boom! Daddies!, who specialize in rockabilly and ’50s tunes.
Wardyga recalled the relative ease with which he was able to book bands for his benefit.
“It was instant,” he said. “I didn’t have to convince them at all.”
Sean Byrne, vocalist of Merchants of Cool, offered a similar assessment.
“Alan approached me after one of my shows at the Bristol Fourth of July concert series and asked if we would be interested, and of course, I jumped on it immediately,” he said.
Byrne has been with the band a little over eight years and felt drawn to the event after losing his wife, Tarin Byrne, to breast cancer 18 years ago. She was just 43.
Byrne perceives the mission for the evening as being to “make as much money as we can for research, and help as many people as we possibly can in the process.”
He is also excited about the venue Wardyga chose.
“It’s a beautiful theater,” he said. “It’s a wonderful venue.”
Wardyga set up a table at the Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope celebration on Oct. 5, where he promoted his organization and the Oct. 19 event. He was spreading the word about his mission and hoping to fill seats.
As a special guest, Wardyga recruited Gianna Paul, Miss Teen Rhode Island 2019, to join his cause after reading an article about her in The Valley Breeze.
Paul, 19, said she was absolutely on board with Wardyga’s cause. Her mother, Patricia Paul, a lifelong North Smithfield resident, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2011, and finally overcame the disease after a difficult two-year battle.
“She had multiple setbacks, which was really unfortunate, but now she’s cancer-free,” said Paul, whose official cause as Miss Teen Rhode Island is breast cancer awareness.
At the benefit, Paul will speak about her mission and her family’s experience with breast cancer and pull the winning ticket for a raffle for a one-week stay in Wardyga’s timeshare in Newport.
“Anyone who purchases two tickets to support this cause will be entered into this drawing for my timeshare,” Wardyga said. “I feel this is a great incentive for people who attend the show.”
He also said there is a link at his website, created in coordination with the Gloria Gemma Foundation, that will allow interested individuals to donate directly to the foundation.
Tickets for Music Fights Cancer, which will run from 7-11 p.m., can be purchased online for $20 each at turningpoint.productions, or at the door.